“They’ll see right through me” or “soon they’ll find out I don’t know what I’m doing” are both examples of how the imposter syndrome narrative can keep us stuck in feelings of inadequacy and failure. Imposter syndrome can also make us feel like we don’t belong or that we will soon be discovered as a fraud. Imposter syndrome is way more common than we think; some of the most successful people at some point in their lives have dealt with the feeling of not being good enough. In a 2016 interview with NPR Tom Hanks shared “no matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’”.
There’s no single detriment of why we experience Imposter Syndrome but according to Imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young, author of a book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, often people set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and will feel like a failure if they’re unable to achieve their goals (even if it’s meeting 99%). There’s a common thinking trap that often perpetuates the feeling of inadequacy called either “amplifying the negative” or “disqualifying the positive” where if you don’t get a 100% then you’re a failure. For example, you get 9 excellent job performance reviews and 1 mediocre. Someone with an imposter syndrome will fixate on the 1 mediocre and see themselves as a failure (despite the 9 excellent reviews). Some people will also attribute their success to luck by downplaying their hard work and contribution which often creates a fear that they won’t be able to achieve their goal the next time.
Imposter syndrome can have significant impact on our self-confidence, however most often there is contradictory evidence that can validate someone’s success, achievements and capabilities. Here are a couple of strategies to help manage imposter syndrome:
Often self-defeating negative thoughts are automatic and we don’t question them. Start to increase your awareness of the thoughts and see them for what they are: negative self-talk.
Do a reality or fact check
Once you’re aware of the negative thoughts, do a fact check by questioning and identifying the evidence/facts that contradict the feelings of being an imposter. Imposter syndrome will tell us we’re a failure, but when we take a moment to critically examine the facts, most times we will discover we have a lot of evidence that validates our successes and personal achievements.
Everyone occasionally makes mistakes, we’re human after all and we need to learn to be accepting of making a mistake, but those mistakes don’t have to define us. Recognize that mistakes help us grow and learn and without them we miss out on opportunities for self-improvement and growth.
Seek professional support
Counselling and psychotherapy gives you time and space to talk through your thoughts and feelings of inadequacy to help you increase your understanding and impact of imposter syndrome. There are many various therapeutic approaches that can help, such as Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is very helpful with challenging self-defeating thoughts related to imposter syndrome. It provides strategies to change the thought processes that contribute to imposter syndrome, and we learn to identify, question and change the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs.
If you are interested in learning more about CBT and improving your outlook on yourself, please book an appointment with our resident therapists. Psychotherapy and Counselling services are available at Bronte Wellness Boutique.